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Joining the Army

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What would one be valuing for themself by joining the army? What would be their basis for such a decision of going knowing that they might give up their life?

Ayn Rand is glad that you asked. She addressed this issue briefly when she delivered a commencement speech at West Point.

Here is a large excerpt:

In conclusion, allow me to speak in personal terms. This evening means a great deal to me. I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you. I can say--not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots--that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world. There is a kind of quiet radiance associated in my mind with the name West Point--because you have preserved the spirit of those original founding principles and you are their symbol. There were contradictions and omissions in those principles, and there may be in yours--but I am speaking of the essentials. There may be individuals in your history who did not live up to your highest standards--as there are in every institution--since no institutions and no social system can guarantee the automatic perfection of all its members; this depends on an individual's free will. I am speaking of your standards. You have preserved three qualities of character which were typical at the time of America's birth, but are virtually nonexistent today: earnestness--dedication--a sense of honor. Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.

You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service--it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one's country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you to realize it.

The army of a free country has a great responsibility: the right to use force, but not as an instrument of compulsion and brute conquest--as the armies of other countries have done in their histories--only as an instrument of a free nation's self-defense, which means: the defense of a man's individual rights. The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use, is the principle of subordinating might to right. The highest integrity and sense of honor are required for such a task. No other army in the world has achieved it. You have.

West Point has given America a long line of heroes, known and unknown. You, this year's graduates, have a glorious tradition to carry on--which I admire profoundly, not because it is a tradition, but because it is glorious.

Since I came from a country guilty of the worst tyranny on earth, I am particularly able to appreciate the meaning, the greatness and the supreme value of that which you are defending. So, in my own name and in the name of many people who think as I do, I want to say, to all the men of West Point, past, present and future: Thank you.

In addition to the honorable reasons cited above, there might be long-term financial incentives to joining the armed forces as well. These include receiving lots of technical and physical training, getting an impressive education (for example, through an ROTC program at a competitive university) and developing effective communication and leadership skills. For many individuals from modest backgrounds, joining the armed forces can be a very good deal careerwise.

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What would one be valuing for themself by joining the army? What would be their basis for such a decision of going knowing that they might give up their life?

Every job involves risking your life. Computer programmers can fall out of their chairs, hit their heads, and die. Joining the military is simply more risky than many (but not all) other jobs, and the question is: what do you get in return for this additional risk? If you think you would enjoy being in the military a lot, then it might be worth it. Only you can decide if you think it's a good trade-off.

Keep your self-respect, join the Marines. ;-)

Whatever, dude. Rangers? Delta? DEVGRU? Marines are far from the be-all-and-end-all of awesome in the military.

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Proving once again that many, many objectivists [...]

Proving, once again, that many, many newcomers to this forum neglect the forum rules. Here, we capitalize our proper nouns, especially Objectivism and Objectivists. Also, just because DMR is posting to an Objectivist forum doesn't mean he is an Objectivist, so don't go making statements about one Objectivist, let alone many, many Objectivists.

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Proving, once again, that many, many newcomers to this forum neglect the forum rules. Here, we capitalize our proper nouns, especially Objectivism and Objectivists. Also, just because DMR is posting to an Objectivist forum doesn't mean he is an Objectivist, so don't go making statements about one Objectivist, let alone many, many Objectivists.

Pedantry.

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Pedantry.

Nope, just relieving our busy moderators of one of their many duties. Of course, if such pedantry bothers you, I'm sure DavidOdden would be glad to tell you why grammatical rules such as the capitalization of proper nouns are more than simple pedantry. Or, you could respect the rules set down by those who set up the forum.

As a side note, given our current culture some would call use of the word "pedantry" an example of the very same.

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Pedantry.
No, actually, a basic issue of respect, and recognition of reality. Proper names are capitalized, and this is a basic fact of Good Grammar. "Objectivism" has a definite and unique referent -- it is a proper name -- and must be capitalized. So please comply with the rules of the forum.
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I would certainly be comforted in times of trouble by knowing that I was armed and in a position to fight back. I have a great deal of respect for anyone that loves law and freedom so much as to join the military or the police. If I'd had more sense when I was younger, I probably would have been one of them.

The fact of the matter is that everything in life involves some kind of risk/reward analysis, and the rewards of joining the military can be fantastic, if you go into it with the right approach. If you're just bumming a free ride to college, though, you may want to think twice. The military is a very difficult, very stressful environment and if you aren't good at remembering to look at the big picture you may not enjoy it very much. Of course, if you aren't good at paying attention to details, you may not enjoy it much then, either. They kind of get you going AND coming.

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The fact of the matter is that everything in life involves some kind of risk/reward analysis, and the rewards of joining the military can be fantastic, if you go into it with the right approach.

How does the risk of death in the military during peace time compare to dangerous civilian occupations? Obviously an office worker faces scant chance of a job-related death, but what about construction or maintenance workers in high-rise buldings? or underground minders? Arctic sea fishermen? Firemen? Cops?

After all, when you need to practice low-level flight at high speed, or landing on aircraft carriers in adverse weather, or drop down from a helicopter with a nylon line, or learn to maneuver around tanks, attrition is part of the cost of doing business.

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How does the risk of death in the military during peace time compare to dangerous civilian occupations? Obviously an office worker faces scant chance of a job-related death, but what about construction or maintenance workers in high-rise buldings? or underground minders? Arctic sea fishermen? Firemen? Cops?

I hear tell that the per capita deaths of US military members in Iraq are less than the per capita deaths of New York City. I don't know if that is still the case, but it struck me as interesting at the time. Lots of military work is boring: potato peeling and the like.

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Lots of military work is boring: potato peeling and the like.

Yeah that's true... not literally potato peeling necessarily, but definitely boring.

That's the thing about the military -- personally I hate blindly following orders. I absolutely cannot stand the whole culture of "always do as you're told and never ask questions". No matter how inefficient or inept you think the man above you is, or how little sense the rules or regulations makes, there is pretty much nothing you can do about it. For myself it would be difficult if not impossible to give up my freedom and my reasoning mind to serve in the military.

The only situation I would ever actually consider joining up would be if there was a war that actually unequivocally threatens the very existence of America -- for instance World War II. I would never ever personally consider a career in the armed forces.

Not if you consider the commute. And all the lovely health problems you get from a sedentary lifestyle.

You choose where you live, and you choose your life style. It has nothing to do with working in an office.

I have a great deal of respect for anyone that loves law and freedom so much as to join the military or the police. If I'd had more sense when I was younger, I probably would have been one of them.

That's interesting. I wonder what percentage of people actually signed up to the military out of love of law and freedom.

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Yeah that's true... not literally potato peeling necessarily, but definitely boring.

Well, you know...that's all we do in the military is peel potatoes..... :)

That's the thing about the military -- personally I hate blindly following orders. I absolutely cannot stand the whole culture of "always do as you're told and never ask questions". No matter how inefficient or inept you think the man above you is, or how little sense the rules or regulations makes, there is pretty much nothing you can do about it. For myself it would be difficult if not impossible to give up my freedom and my reasoning mind to serve in the military.

A lot of that particular attitude is fading from the military (though, thankfully, not all segments). There are certain MOS's which REQUIRE one to ask questions and to understand WHY you're doing such things. Especially with the younger crowd coming into the military today, who aren't huge on being told what to do. There are some very cool jobs in the military (I've done a couple of them), there are also some jobs I'd never want to do.

Also, you can do things to change the military. If a rule or regulation does not make sense to you (usually many) you are free to re-write it and send it up the chain for revision. If your change is liked, it will be used (privates have been able to change regulations). The army/military continually wants to better itself and its soldiers. If there's a way to do it, then they will usually do it (unless, apparently, it has to do with berets...then we're stuck). Anyways, it's really only in the ground troops that you enter that "don't ask questions" mentality, and there's a GOOD reason for it. Beyond that, most CS/CSS (Combat Support/Combat Service Support) tend to be a bit more on the reasonable side (also for good reason).

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Anyways, it's really only in the ground troops that you enter that "don't ask questions" mentality, and there's a GOOD reason for it.

Yeah but ground troops are by far the largest majority of enlisted men. I know that following orders without question is a military necessity, I'm just saying given my personality I'd absolutely hate it.

Even in other MOS's though, you are obviously not going to have the same room for freedom or creativity as the civilian counterparts. And ultimately you're obviously still placing your life (your highest value) in the hands of someone sitting in an office off in pentagon. That, frankly, does not sit well with me.

Like I said, the only situation where I would willingly enter the military is if our nation's existence is unequivocally threatened, as in World War II. I would never, ever, consider it as a career path.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Yeah but ground troops are by far the largest majority of enlisted men. I know that following orders without question is a military necessity, I'm just saying given my personality I'd absolutely hate it.

Likely. That's why I'm not in the ground troops. I like being in the rear theater.

Even in other MOS's though, you are obviously not going to have the same room for freedom or creativity as the civilian counterparts. And ultimately you're obviously still placing your life (your highest value) in the hands of someone sitting in an office off in pentagon. That, frankly, does not sit well with me.

I suppose that would depend on the civilian jobs. I know people who have much harder task masters than I've had in the Army. Again, I think that, like any other job, it really depends on the individual you're working for. I have a LOT of freedom in both sections of my job (granted, I'm in the band, but I've had it in other jobs, too).

Also, given our current state of homeland security, I wouldn't say your life is in any better hands. :)

Like I said, the only situation where I would willingly enter the military is if our nation's existence is unequivocally threatened, as in World War II. I would never, ever, consider it as a career path.

And it's not for everyone, I admit (I don't think it's a career for me, but it was a nice start with education and experience, but I haven't fully decided yet). There are certainly those (of the rational selfishness kind) who can make a phenominal career of it.

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Anyways, it's really only in the ground troops that you enter that "don't ask questions" mentality, and there's a GOOD reason for it. Beyond that, most CS/CSS (Combat Support/Combat Service Support) tend to be a bit more on the reasonable side (also for good reason).

I am currently serving in the Infantry and soon going to be deployed to Iraq. This is my first post on these forums, but I have been reading them for over a year and I am an avid fan. I became an Objectivist in the military and a lot of what is being said about the robot mentality in the Army is inherently false. Most of the time your leaders will give you a task that needs to be accomplished and let their subordinates figure out with their own minds how to accomplish the task, It is what the Army calls "Adaptive Thinking".

The way the Infantry works is the man best suited for a leadership position gets it purely because of his ability. I know that I have had several Platoon Sergeants get relieved of command because they could not handle it and they have been replaced by somebody better and lower ranking than them. In the Army especially in the combat MOS's you have to have good leader that gets the job done, because if you don't people die. I just wanted to comment on that because of the experience I have. Just remember when you think of the Army do not automatically assume we are mindless robots.

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Hear, hear. Voluntary acceptance of arcane rules of etiquette doesn't turn someone into a robot, it means they have a great deal of self-discipline and can see the necessity of those rules.

Don't go back to being a lurker, now.

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I am currently serving in the Infantry and soon going to be deployed to Iraq. This is my first post on these forums, but I have been reading them for over a year and I am an avid fan. I became an Objectivist in the military and a lot of what is being said about the robot mentality in the Army is inherently false. Most of the time your leaders will give you a task that needs to be accomplished and let their subordinates figure out with their own minds how to accomplish the task, It is what the Army calls "Adaptive Thinking".

That's very true. I come from an intel background and was thinkin of the old intel joke "You know you're in Intel when, after recieving an order, the first word out of your mouth is, 'Why?'" It's funny because it's true.

The way the Infantry works is the man best suited for a leadership position gets it purely because of his ability. I know that I have had several Platoon Sergeants get relieved of command because they could not handle it and they have been replaced by somebody better and lower ranking than them. In the Army especially in the combat MOS's you have to have good leader that gets the job done, because if you don't people die. I just wanted to comment on that because of the experience I have. Just remember when you think of the Army do not automatically assume we are mindless robots.

Yeah...I wish that theory worked a little more THROUGHOUT the army, but overall, yeah. That's been my point.

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